It has been an interesting week if you are following news about Twitter. After their launch of lists, most people probably figured that Twitter would get fairly quiet for a while. Well, it sounds like this is a different kind of Twitter team. Instead of waiting for a week or a month to go by, Twitter has let some other new items out of the bag.
First, to compliment their lists launch, they give us the List Widget. This widget allows you to embed the tweets of a list on your website. By itself, this is not major news, but we have not seen a new widget for a while.
Also this week, we got a small taste of trend curation. Twitter announced that they are finally going to do something about the trending topics:
we’re starting to experiment with improvements to trends that will help you find more relevant tweets. Specifically, we’re working to show higher quality results for trend queries by returning tweets that are more useful.
This is interesting because it shows another step in the fight against spam. However, there is also no mention of whether what they are doing affects all searches or this will be a new feature or whether this is being put into the API. At this point, it almost sounds like it will be a web only feature for now.
We also saw the limited rollout of retweets. This has been talked about for a while, and the API changes have been in the works for quite some time as well. However, the Twitter.com implementation is purely a visual idea, not as much a data idea.
Finally, there were a few really new tidbits this week that make the week very interesting. Twitter posted a note on their status blog about a new notification feature:
We’re starting a limited test of notifications on twitter.com for when you have new tweets. So if one of the folks you follow has tweeted since you loaded your homepage, you’ll get a little notice saying “1 new tweet” that, when clicked, will display the new content.
This is not a shockingly new feature, it has been implemented on the search results pages for ages. However, the only reason you really need it is if you want people to know that something has been updated. Again, this is purely a Twitter.com feature and has no impact on the API.
They also announced that the Twitter web site will be available in Spanish. Localization is always a good thing if you are targeting a global audience. However, the question of why could arise. If you are dependent upon third party clients, and you expect the developer community to serve the users while you focus on infrastructure, localization is the last thing on your mind. So, why add localization? Well, if we have visual cues for retweets, a nice list implementation, notifications when new tweets have arrive and a better implementation for trending topics all available on Twitter.com, it almost sounds like you are sending a message to your developer community. It really looks like Twitter is beefing up its web client in order to draw more users back to the web. This is a great idea if you want to use display advertising as your revenue model.
Twitter has long been criticized for the lack of a good native mobile client. They have also admitted in the past that a new version of at least the mobile web client is in the roadmap. Could they be taking this a step further and building an entire iPhone app out of it?
This raises an interesting question as well. If they are improving their web client and they are developing their own iPhone app, are they changing the rules? Are they finally going to compete with all of the third party applications that have sprouted up over the past few years? Jesse also brings up a very good point in his post, “your greatest competitor could just be your supplier”. Twitter developers have been put on notice, Twitter is improving its own applications and may be coming after you. So, how is that Facebook integration coming along?